where instruction fosters adventure
Saturday last, various students in the Upper Yough Training program, headed to run the formidable, class IV+ Upper Yough. We had been training in the gates and at Dickerson for most of a month. There were two groups, one more experienced with the river, and another of mostly first-timers. The more experienced group took off from the put-in when the water arrived at 12:30. The other arrived at the put-in at 1:30, which put us at the back end of the release bubble. I was leading the second group, who this story is about; Sandrine lead the first.
For Bill and Sonya, it was an exciting day just for the thought that this was their first time ever down this river, and for Jenn and Jeannine it was their second time after a year-long hiatus. In 8 miles of continuous rapids everyone expected to make an error or two, and, well, they did.
The first boo-boo came with Jenn picking her own line down “Bastard.” She deflected off the right hand boof-rock and bombed straight down the rapid. It actually turned out just fine, since she kept on bombing and deflecting off the boulders until she reached a large eddy over half the way down. Then she stopped to wait for the rest of us.
Next boo-boo came from Bill who flipped in the hole at the bottom of Triple Drop, and missed his first attempt at rolling. There is not much space before the start of National, but he made his second try at rolling and got into the eddy in the nick of time.
Jenn went for another creative flourish at National as she tried for a 360 spin off the ledge above and landed in the hydraulic in the eddy line. This caused her to flip, so her roll had to work in the short space before the drop of National. Once again her ability to bomb through things came to the fore, and she arrived smiling in the eddy below National.
Bill thought he could top that, so at Little Niagara after the boof, he went for a quick roll, and broke his paddle on rocks beneath the surface. But he was only two swim strokes from the shore, and only his boat was washed down stream.
After that, Sonya got jealous with all the attention the others were drawing, so she had to show how exciting she could make our trip by getting sideways in her effort to make the eddy above Cheeseburger, and was washed into the ledge rock that creates the drop. The rock was overhung so that when she was washed into it, she was flipped. Without a pause, she recovered and rolled up and squeezed into a small eddy created by the ledge rock. When the outcome to this escapade looked so doubtful, I followed her into the small eddy, but she quickly recovered on her own. We then both carried upstream to the missed eddy and ran the rapid correctly.
Jeannine, feeling left out of the excitement in spite of her multiple flips in the middle of rapids, saved her best for one of the last rapids – Fudge-Up Falls. Just when she thought she had passed all difficulties down the rapid, she landed in the middle of the hole at the very bottom that I had warned them about. There she hung out upside down for a while counting fishes, I guess. Her time-tested and signature response to difficult situations was to stay upside down for as long as it takes for danger to pass. So in the hole, after waiting a few moments for the currents to push her out, it was easy to roll and restore herself to normal paddling postion.
Thus went the day’s adventure for the less experienced group. It was a fine day on the Upper Yough, and no one was spared a little dash of extra excitement, even while demonstrating that they were all well prepared to take on the mighty Upper Yough.